University of Rochester senior Isthier Chaudhury was in Washington D.C. Wednesday, Jan. 19 to share his experiences studying abroad in Beijing, China during a series of events, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs, and the Institute of International Education.
Wednesday's events corresponded with Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the U.S., and highlighted the importance of international exchange, particularly between the U.S. and China. It also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and supported President Obama's "100,000 Strong" initiative, which seeks to increase the number of American students studying abroad in China. First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama addressed high school and college students at Howard University and participate in a panel discussion with students who have studied abroad in China.
Before the panel, Chaudhury attended a small reception hosted by the first lady. He was one of a small group of students to meet and take a photographer with Obama. Chaudhury also traveled to area middle schools and high schools Wednesday afternoon to talk about his experiences abroad. He studied abroad through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) program at Peking University in Beijing as a Gilman scholar during the 2009-2010 academic year.
"Studying abroad changes your entire undergraduate experience," says Chaudhury, who is a double major in chemical engineering and Chinese. "Not only does it allow students to explore a new culture—it's a two-way exchange—and the people we meet abroad are able to learn about our culture as well."
At Rochester, 66 students have been awarded Gilman scholarships since the program's inception. The scholarship provides financial assistance to students who are enrolled in study abroad programs worldwide. Scholarship recipients are chosen from a national pool of candidates through a competitive process and use the award to offset the cost of study abroad. This spring, a record number of University students received Gilman awards; more than 50 percent of the students who applied from the University received scholarships, in comparison to the national average of 30 percent.
Note to Editors: Chaudhury is available for phone interviews on Wednesday evening, as well as Thursday when he returns to Rochester. Photos of his trip to China also are available.